The world recently noted the one-year anniversary of recognizing the COVID-19 virus as a pandemic. This time last school year, we were all at home, unknowingly awaiting the news that the rest of the semester would be completed virtually. This was the very last news most of us wanted to hear.
That seemed to be the beginning of what has been a strange year. In addition to the stress of a global pandemic, racial tensions in America publicly escalated on a national level. The presidential election was unusually heated. The West Coast caught on fire and Texas froze. The recent mass shooting in Atlanta is one of many horrific accounts of increasing violence against Asians.
These are only a few items in a long list of trials our world and nation has experienced in a few short months. And we haven’t even touched on the individual level yet—loss of loved ones, concerns about finances, uncertainty about employment, unfortunate home situations intensified by stay-at-home orders, feelings of loneliness, overwhelming struggles with mental and emotional health. It’s been hard, to say the least.
As I reflect on these events and experiences, there are two admonitions weighing on my heart to share with the Bethel community I love so much. First, be kind. Be empathetic. You never know what someone else is going through; you rarely see the pain they must endure. If they do tell you, if they trust you, if they’ve shared their pain with you, do not squander it or take it for granted. Trust is a gift and a responsibility that should never be taken lightly.
Second, show respect to one another. There is a plethora of issues to disagree about right now, and it’s easy to get carried away sometimes. But it does not matter how “right” you are— insulting or degrading others is never a justifiable action. Even if you have the book, chapter and verse to defend your viewpoint, being correct is not a stick of authority to beat others with. There are many gray areas in life. There will be disagreements, and some of them will be painful. Some of them will give birth to righteous anger. But none of them should lead to disrespect of fellow human beings.
Journalism was built on the tenants of truth and respect. While there are many examples of media outlets that seem to have forgotten those values, I strive to stand beside those ideals as Editor.
Let’s foster the forgotten art of agreeing to disagree. Let’s rebel against the expectation that certain topics can’t be discussed in a courteous manner. Let’s show the world the power of empathy and respect.
Why should you care? Why should you try to be better and lead by example? Because we are Bethel. This is what we are meant to do.
Brianna R. Densmore